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7th EAI International Conference on Pervasive Computing Paradigms for Mental Health

January 9–10, 2018 | Boston, United States

Giuseppe Riva

Title: "Unlocking the Virtual Body: Multisensory Simulation/Stimulation for the Assessment and Treatment of Obesity and Eating Disorders

    According to many different meta-analyses, systematic and narrative reviews Virtual Reality (VR) is effective both in the diagnosis      and the treatment of mental health disorders. But why is VR so effective? This keynote suggests the following answer: VR shares      with our brain the same basic mechanism, embodied simulations. According to neuroscience our brain, to effectively regulate and      control the body in the world, creates an embodied simulation of the body in the world used to represent and predict actions,              concepts and emotions. VR works in a similar way: the VR experience tries to predict the sensory consequences of the                      individual’s     movements providing to him/her the same scene he/she will see in the real world. To achieve this the VR system,        like the brain, maintains a model (simulation) of the body and the space around it. If the presence in the body is the outcome of          different embodied simulations, concepts are embodied simulations, and VR is an embodied technology, this suggests a new            clinical approach that will be discussed in the keynote: the possibility of altering the experience of the body and facilitating                  cognitive modelling/change by designing targeted virtual environments able to simulate both the external and the internal                    world/body. The application of this approach in the treatment of obesity and eating disorders is also presented and discussed.


Ph.D. is Head Researcher of the Applied Technology for Neuro-Psychology Laboratory (Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milan, Italy) and Full Professor of General Psychology in Catholic University of Sacred Heart of Milan (Italy). His interests lies primarily in the development, use and effects of Virtual Reality (VR) in well-being and on a variety of psychopathological conditions, including those whose aetiology may be due to an impaired bodily self-consciousness (BSC), and neurodegenerative disorders. ). He pioneered many of the applications that enabled the diffusion of VR and Internet in the field of health care, with his research work contributing to the development of a new scientific discipline “Cyperpsychology” integrating innovative research ranging from usability, ergonomics, and psychology to mobile devices and simulation apparatus. Through the analysis of the cognitive processes involved in simulated realities, he expanded the concept of “presence”(the feeling of being there) originally developed by communication scholars. He also successfully used simulation technologies to develop presence-enhanced experiences, whose utility and effectiveness was tested in different applicative areas within different (inter)national grants from post-stroke rehabilitation to the treatment of eating  disorders. He has been PI of several competitive research projects, including three European funded project and is author of more than 300 scientific papers (H index=52; Web site with downloadable papers: -Google Scholar Profile:


Justin T. Baker

Title: “Sensing Psychosis: Toward Robust Computational Phenotypes in Severe Mental Illness”

Until recently, the inconsistency of neurobiological measures taken together with the imprecise nature of clinical observation has severely limited our ability to apply a personalized medicine approach in psychiatry, or to optimize care for all individuals seeking treatment. As a result, psychiatric care has remained largely open-loop and non-quantitative in nature, since providers may resist adding coarse, quantitative methods to their nuanced, albeit subjective, assessments. The widespread adoption of pervasive computing provides the field with unprecedented opportunities to build and test deep, dynamic models of illness by quantifying behavior at the level of individuals over time. If harnessed effectively, these new tools will allow us to move past the false choice between precise and personalized psychiatry that has confounded the field and limited progress. Critically, unobtrusive, quantitative behavioral phenotyping strategies could transform our ability to infer causal relationships between illness fluctuations, contextual factors, and treatment interventions and thereby radically reshape the process of discovery and development of novel therapeutics, making it more closed-loop, personalized, and targeted toward specific neural circuits.  Here I discuss recent efforts to bridge these complementary approaches through single-case experimental designs in individuals with severe mental illness including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.


Justin T. Baker, PhD, has a background in neuroscience and clinical psychiatry. He is currently the director of functional neuroimaging and bioinformatics for the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Program at McLean Hospital. His research uses both large-scale studies and “deep-phenotyping” approaches to understand the nature and underlying biology of mental illnesses, particularly lifelong conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The goal of this work is to develop more effective strategies to both monitor the course of illness and intervene in creative ways to improve the lives of individuals suffering from these conditions.